Saturday, 16 February 2013

On rejoining the library

Yesterday in my lunch break I power-walked up to the town library, stormed (in the most positive sense) to the information desk and un-expired my library card. I rejoined the library. It was an emotional half an hour.

I have always loved libraries and some of my best childhood memories are in libraries. It used to be a treat to go to the library in Wootton Bassett (now Royal Wootton Bassett) and sit in the model train full of children's books, pore over the picture books and look at the miniature scale model of the town that was tucked away behind the adult fiction. I remember finding one book in the children's train that was amazing (to four-year-old me) and being desperate to find it again after it had been returned. I never did. It was very sad.

After moving to Somerset, I used the town library constantly. Which does explain why I sometimes read a book then realise half-way through that I've read it before. I then struck up a friendship with the school librarian who always commented on my endless reading (I, unfortunately, was that girl). 

Basically, what I'm trying to tell you is that I LOVE LIBRARIES. Buildings full of books...what on earth could ever be better than that?!

To cut a long, nostalgic and boring story short, I then went to uni and realised I liked owning books and adorning my bookshelves too much to only ever borrow books. It was then that I fell into the den of iniquity that is Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Oxfam and every other bookshop in the world. I was lost (reading gives you a flair for the dramatic).

Anyway, back to today. I've been thinking for a while that I need to go back to the library. I feel guilty whenever library cuts come up on the news and I know I'm not doing my bit (I did buy The Library Book, but I'm not sure that counts). It was all a bit of a shock when I walked in. The library has moved into the 21st century, complete with self-scan borrow/return machines (I had to ask for help obvs). What really struck me though, was all the space. Where were the stacks and stacks of shelving, why were the shelves not stuffed to bursting like I remember them? What happened in my absence? A book apocalypse? (I told you, flair for the dramatic). 

My feelings in general are mixed. I'm slightly disappointed by the outdated stock, the huge gaps in the stock, and the abundance of impractical hardback editions. But then I'm happy that they have a good ordering service, the books are free to read, and I feel like I'm giving back a bit. Sharing the book love, so to speak. I have made it a belated New Year's resolution to use the library this year and take out, say, one book a month, or even just visit and sit in the cafe. 

To be perfectly frank, I may have just been completely overwhelmed by the whole experience and I do tend to get a bit giddy when I'm surrounded on all sides by books, books and more books. I'm going to see how it goes. In the meantime, I obviously borrowed books and I'm obviously going to share what I did borrow. So, enough talk, insert the damn picture and zip it.

Pompeii by Mary Beard
The Lifted Veil/ Brother Jacob by George Eliot
Any of you have any thoughts on libraries? Do you love them but not use them? Or do you borrow more than you buy?



  1. What do you expect from Taunton Library ? I didn't realise they had a cafe though. Question. What is there art section like ? (if they even have one, it is Taunton mind :P)

    1. Mum reminded me when I got home that libraries have about as much money as theatres so I probably shouldn't have been surprised. The art section is actually huge, definitely worth checking out!

  2. Ohhh, I loooove the library. I definitely had a phase of just buying books and never going to the library, but then I started going to get recipe books out (because, you know, recipe books=SO EXPENSIVE) and then drifting over to the fiction section and, well, you know what happens there.

    I definitely find that the libraries near me have fairly limited stock, which is annoying, but Surrey libraries have a thing where you can borrow things from any other library in Surrey, so you can normally find what you're looking for. Which is awesome. Actually, I feel a bit naughty FOR using the library nowadays, because of all the unread books I have at home that get pushed aside for library books! Oh well...

    1. Heading to the fiction section is just inevitable.

      I have since found out that the whole South West library network share books so you can order and reserve books. I have already done this. Ahem. No Surprise there. I feel a bit naughty too, I can see myself getting bored with my pile of unread books and heading to the library instead. But, as you say, oh well!

  3. I know what you mean about the decidedly-unstuffed shelves. When I started using the library again about three years ago, after a kind of buying-crazy period during university, I was looking round like "Where have all the books gone? Some of these shelves are half empty!" It also drives me mad that I can head onto the catalogue to check the availability of a super-popular book and there's never a copy listed for the branch - just a note saying it's "on order". I know libraries are hard up, but it's a bit daft not to be able to pre-empt that, say, the Man Booker shortlist might be in high demand for a while, and that having copies in would be a good plan...

    That said, I still love going to the library, and sometimes I'm surprised to find a more obscure title that I DIDN'T expect to find there, which is always a bit of a thrill. Plus there's the inter-library loan thing, and the bigger library half an hour away is like heaven, so I can't complain too much about the little one here really! And like you say, the more you check out, the more you feel like you're doing your bit to keep 'em going. Next up: working out how the DVD rental thing works. YAY LIBRARIES! :D

    1. It pretty much looks like a crazed book person (this could be me) has gone wild and stolen all the books. But, in these stringent times, one cannot be picky! You'd think they would pre-empt mad rushes and high demand books. Silly, silly libraries.

      I just like being surrounded by books so I think I'll just pop in there for some down time. I used to get DVD's from the library near uni and that was awesome. You could get whole tv boxsets which kept me occupied for hours. I will second that: YAY LIBRARIES!


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